According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are over 145,000 people working in more than 7,000 warehouses across the United States. Due to the unique combination of vehicular, electrical, trip-and-fall, lifting, repetitive motion, chemical, respiratory and fire hazards found in warehouses, the US warehousing industry’s fatality rate rises above the national average for all industries combined.
Keeping workers safe and reducing warehouse liability is dependent upon proper and thorough employee training, the right Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and an ergonomically friendly work environment. CableOrganizer.com provides the following warehouse safety checklist to help you keep your employees and warehouse facility as safe and productive as possible.
- Equip packing stations with impact absorbing, anti-slip industrial floor mats to relieve the stress placed on employees’ knees, shins, and ankles when they work entire shifts standing in one place
- Prevent musculoskeletal disorders by opting to move heavy loads with mechanical equipment, instead of manually lifting them.
- Make sure that floors are kept free of spills and tripping hazards.
- Prevent eyestrain and errors by providing workers with overhead lighting that is adequate for all operations. Customize different areas of the facility with task lighting as needed.
- Never twist your body while carrying a load – turning your torso in a situation like this can lead to back injuries. If you need to change direction, turn yourself by shifting your feet in small steps.
- If a load pushes the size or weight limit of what you can comfortably lift, don’t risk hurting yourself – get help and team-lift the materials instead.
- When lifting, keep your back in a natural position, and rely on your legs to do the actual lifting.
- Lifting from floor or shoulder level is a common cause of injury; prevent employee from injuring themselves by arranging storage in such a way that these types of lifting tasks are reduced or eliminated.
Safely Storing Materials
- Make sure that stacked loads are straight and even, to prevent them from toppling over.
- Heavier loads should be stored on lower or middle shelves, so that they create a center of gravity for your shelving units, as opposed to leaving them top-heavy.
- When removing objects from shelves, only do so one item at a time.
- Keep the aisles and areas surrounding your shelf systems free from obstruction.
- Never allow anyone who is under the age of 18 and/or not specifically trained in forklift operation to operate a forklift.
- When driving a forklift, never exceed 5mph, and always slow down in areas that have slippery floors or are likely to be congested with people, materials, or other transport vehicles.
- Properly maintain forklifts, and always remember to do a walk-around check for hazardous conditions before you operate one.
- Never operate a damaged or defective forklift until it has been adequately repaired and proven safe for use.
- Make sure that aisles and loading docks that are traversed by forklifts are kept clear, allowing plenty of space for a forklift to safely maneuver through.
- Require all forklift operators to utilize the manufacturer-installed seatbelts.
- Keep your warehouse well ventilated to allow the dissipation of forklift fumes and carbon monoxide, and ensure that employees are fully trained on the dangers of inhaling excessive amounts of forklift exhaust.
- Never attempt to lift, stack, or transport loads that exceed the forklift’s weight capacity.
- Maintain a zero-tolerance policy for “stunt driving,” racing, and any other forklift-related horseplay.
- Provide proper PPE (like rubber gloves and safety glasses) at forklift battery charging stations, to protect workers in the event that they are exposed to battery acid or other chemicals.
Loading Dock Safety
- Place visual warnings like signs and strips of brightly colored tape along dock edges to prevent employees from accidentally walking off.
- Never allow forklifts to back up all the way to a loading dock’s edge.
- Ensure that dock stairs and ladders are equipped with handrails and otherwise meet OSHA requirements.
- Whenever a dock plate is used, make sure that it’s well secured, and verify that its weight capacity can safely accommodate the load you intend to move over it.
- Regularly inspect conveyors to ensure that they’re undamaged and in safe condition.
- Make sure that all pinch points are well guarded.
- Ensure that there is proper lighting and sufficient workspace in the vicinity of the conveyor.
- Tailor a lockout plan for your conveyor system, so it can remain safely shut down in the event of a malfunction or repair. Train employees in the procedure.
General Warehouse Safety Tips
- Floors must be kept clear of spilled liquids and clutter that could cause employees to slip or trip.
- If power cords or hoses must be run across walkways or open areas, cover them heavy-duty cord covers to prevent tripping hazards, as well as to protect the cables from run-over damage.
- Set reasonable time requirements for task completion – rushing can lead to accidents and injuries.
- Prevent worker fatigue by ensuring that employees doing physical work receive an adequate number of rest breaks throughout their shifts.
- Have set lockout/tagout procedures in place to prevent employees from being injured during the repair of damaged machinery and electrical panels.
- Keep the warehouse well ventilated at all times.
- Depending upon the average temperature of your facility, train employees on proper hydration, appropriate clothing, and other best practices for working in hot or cold environments.
If you’d like more information about Warehouse Safety, be sure to check out OSHA’s Pocket Guide to Warehousing, part of the organization’s Worker Safety Series.